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Course Description

This online course offers the student an introduction to the profession of journalism as a whole. It begins with a brief overview of journalism, acquainting students with the foundation of writing for the news industry. There is a lesson on the history of journalism that takes the students back to the first news ever collected and made public. The development of the newspaper, particularly as it relates to the colonies and the United States after the Revolutionary War is explained. What follows next is fundamental newsgathering and writing skills needed to become competent practicing journalists working in print journalism, with some focus on other media writing as well.
The student is given the opportunity to review their grammar and punctuation skills, and asked to think about the ethics and legalities of the profession of journalism. All aspects of journalism will be discussed and examples are provided to help the student understand such concepts as notetaking, and using the tools of the trade such as the inverted pyramid. Students will learn what is newsworthy and what is not is included along with ideas for ferreting out news stories. One of the final lessons focuses on the special skill of in depth and investigative writing with examples of proper subject matter for this writing format. The student is then reminded of the obligations of the journalist to their craft and the public, and the types of stories they should pursue.


The Beginning of Journalism

Journalism is the gathering, organizing and distribution of news to include feature stories and commentary through the wide variety of print and non-print media outlets. It is not a recent phenomenon by any means, the earliest reference to a journalistic product comes from Rome circa 59 B.C.E. when news was recorded in a circular called the Acta diurnal. It enjoyed daily publication and was hung strategically throughout the city for all to read, or for those who were able to read.

During the Tang dynasty, from 618 A.D. to 907 A.D., China prepared a court report, then named a bao, to distribute to government officials for the purpose of keeping them informed of relevant events. It continued afterwards in a variety of forms and names until the end of 1911 and the demise of the Qing dynasty. However, the first indication of a regular news publication can be traced to Germany, 1609, and the initial paper published in the English language (albeit ‘old English') was the newspaper known as the Weekly Newes from 1622. The Daily Courant, however, first appearing in 1702, was the first daily paper for public consumption. 

It should come as no surprise that these earliest forays into keeping the public informed were met with government opposition in many cases. They attempted to impose censorship by placing restrictions and taxes on publishers as a way to curb ‘freedom of the press'. But literacy among the population as a whole was growing and because of this, along with the introduction of technology that improved printing and circulation, newspaper publications saw their numbers explode and even though there remain pockets of news censorship around the world today, for the most part, journalistic freedom reigns.

Soon after newspapers got a foothold, the creation of the magazine became widespread as well. While its earliest form was such aptly named periodicals as the ‘Tatler' and ‘Spectator', and both were initial attempts to marry articles of opinions with current events, by the 1830s, magazines were common mass-circulated periodicals that appealed to a broader audience and included illustrated serials aimed specifically at the female audience.

Time passed, and the cost of newsgathering increased dramatically as publications attempted to keep pace with what seemed to be a growing and insatiable appetite for printed news. Slowly, news agencies formed to take the place of independent publishers. They would hire people to gather and write news reports, and then sell these stories to a variety of individual news outlets. However, the print media was soon about to come head to head with an entirely new form of news gathering with the invention, first, of the telegraph, but quickly followed by radio and mass broadcasting, and then television. It was an evolution of technology that seemed all but inevitable.

Non-print media changed the dynamics of news gathering and reporting altogether. It sped up all aspects of the process, making the news itself more timely and relevant. Soon, technology became an integral part of journalism, even if the ultimate product was in print form. Today, satellites that transmit information from one side of the globe to another in seconds, and the internet as well, place breaking news in the hands of almost every person in the world at the same time. This has created a new model of journalism once again, and one that will likely be the standard for the coming future.

The Rise of Journalism in the United States

Not everyone was enamored with news reporting. When the earliest colonies were settling into life on this continent there were many influential leaders that spoke with disdain about the press. One such person was Governor William Berkeley of Virginia who, in 1671, claimed "I thank God, there are no free schools nor printing and I hope we shall not have, these hundred years, for learning has brought disobedience, and heresy, and sects into the world, and printing has divulged them, and libels against the best government. God keep us from both." That is not a comment one would expect to hear in the United States today. But this was spoken at a time before technology had altered publication, and the purpose of most municipalities and their leaders was to see to it that people conformed.

It was 1690 when the first colonial news sheet appeared. Titled "Boston's Publick Occurrences Both Forreign and Domestick", it was published by Benjamin Harris whose first story was disparaging of the British, causing the paper to be put out of business a short four days later! Over the coming three quarters of a century, news sheets and publications came to be more accepted, and by the time the Revolutionary War was upon the new nation they were all but rampant across the colonies, filled with opinions pro and con about an impending military confrontation. Often, these news sources would simply lift information from another rival resource without thought of crediting the original writer or publisher. Unfortunately, as might be expected, this second hand news was misquoted and provided inaccurate information on a regular basis.


To be sure, newspapers and those who wrote for them did so as a medium of empowerment. Up to that point, information on public matters was usually scarce, handed off by word of mouth, and controlled by the news-deliverer (which was usually those in power). So mass printing (as it was in those early days and not to be compared to what we experience today) must have been much like being handed a freedom never before realized. Publishers could certainly be credited with having altruistic purposes for their existence – that drove them to fervently keep the public informed. But, equally as important, newsgathering and publication was a new form of revenue for all involved. The reporter made money going out into the public and gathering this information, then crafting stories for the news-thirsty public. Publishers made money off of the seemingly endless stream of newspaper buyers, and even newsboys and publication workers were kept busy at their craft. Over all, the newspaper business was a win-win situation for everyone.

In many ways, the content and format of newspapers has not changed since the 18th century. Even in its infancy, and with some notable exceptions, newspapers seems to know intrinsically they had a responsibility to be fair and honest, and print the truth. Early newspapers were in the habit of dividing the news into sections, such as ‘foreign' and ‘domestic', and opinion pages were as common in the earliest news gazettes and sheets as they are today. Businesses quickly saw the advantages of advertising in newspapers, so this has been a staple of newspapers since their inception. The newspapers of colonial America were in a position where they had to economize. The first newspapers were ‘weeklies' consisting of four pages and advertisements were relegated to the back.

Because the cost of newsprint and ink were so high, as were the machines on which the news was printed, cut, folded and distributed, stories were condensed to provide only the most basic of information – most of which appeared in the first paragraph. It is believed this is where the entire model for journalistic writing began. Today, it is universally accepted that the first paragraph of a news story answer the basic questions of who, what, where, when and why – a concept taught in most elementary classrooms across the country as a writing style for the beginning writer.

Colonial newspapers also included sensationalist stories such as sightings of strange creatures, poems, satire, essays and political cartoons. There was also a section for personal advertisements such as the sale of household items. 
After the Revolutionary War, newspapers went from weekly to daily publication where the public would support it. They also became much more vigilant about the political state of the new nation, writing long and deep about politicians, political parties, state and federal stances on subjects of interest and matter to the fledgling American public. Indeed, it seemed certain that a free press was part and parcel of a free nation. The press was about to take this country in a direction that no country had ever experienced before, all while creating a model of journalism for the rest of the world to copy.

Interestingly, some of America's earliest founders and leaders, George Washington himself, had little use for the ‘press' and claimed so vocally, stating he rarely had time to look at a gazette with all of his other interests! On the other end of the spectrum was Benjamin Franklin, a colleague and fellow separatist, who is credited today with pushing journalism and newspapers to wider acceptance, sure it was the cornerstone of a continuing free nation.

More History of Journalism

Journalism, like other professions today, was not once held in esteem or regard. It was often thought to be a practice of those who would avoid ‘real work'. Over time, journalists began to organize as a way of gaining recognition for their craft. The first foundation of journalists came in 1883 in England, the American Newspaper Guild was organized in 1933, an institute meant to function as both a trade union and a professional organization. From the beginning of newspapers and up until about the mid-1800s journalists entered the field as an apprentice, starting out most often as copyboys and cub reporters. The first time that journalism was recognized as an area of academic study was when it was introduced at the university level in 1879, where the University of Missouri offered it as a four-year course of study. New York's Columbia University followed suit in 1912, offering the study of journalism as a graduate program, endowed by none other than Joseph Pulitzer himself. The realization that news reporting was becoming extremely complex in a world that was globalizing through mass media, even if only the telegraph were the instrument of delivery, was fully acknowledged.

And the world of journalism grew in leaps and bounds then. In-depth reporting, economics and business, politics and science all vied for the attention of the public. Then came motion pictures and radio, and eventually television and the need for refined and expert skills and techniques grew exponentially. Journalism was a common course of study by the 1950s in universities across the United States. Literature and texts on the subject of journalism grew as well to keep up with the demand of budding journalists and their professors. Soon the stacks were filled with anecdotal, biographical and historical information specifically regarding the subject of journalism and its once and former illustrious, and not so, practitioners.

It has been the nature of journalism in the United States to champion social responsibility, and that has not changed since the early 1700s. That is not to say that partisan politics has never driven the news media – print and non-print. Even today, media outlets, and national newspapers are identified by their social leanings – either liberal or conservative. But, there are still many that present a fair and unbiased look at events that are happening locally, nationally, and internationally, written and published with the intent of informing the public and allowing them to make their own decisions on an issue. There were dark times in journalism that lent themselves to outright dishonest and ultra-persuasive tactics to influence the public – using fear as a motivator for motivation. Today this is labeled ‘yellow' journalism and it has a separate history and place in journalism's past. For the most part, journalists are careful to avoid these types of tactics today.


Recent History of Journalism

That brings us to journalism of the 20th century and this first decade and a half of the 21st century. There is no question that the professionalism of this industry has grown immensely since the days of yellow journalism. There are several factors that are credited with this including the fact that journalism became a recognized area of study at the university level giving it a sense of importance missing prior to this. As well, there was an increasing body of knowledge on all aspects of the field of journalism, laying bare its flaws for others to examine, and explaining the techniques of mass communication from a social and psychological viewpoint. At the same time, social responsibility became the hallmark of journalism and journalists themselves elevated the profession through the creation of professional organizations. The moniker ‘a free and responsible press' is the ‘battlecry' of the journalist today, as ethics and standards are an important consideration of all those who enter the profession.

The news has been changing with the introduction of new technologies. Even with the introduction of radio and, later, television, newspapers remained the most trusted source of information for most Americans, who only supplemented them with non-print media information. That is not so today. Non print media dominate news acquisition by the public, and it has become more influential than could have been suspected in its infancy. Americans, and others, turn to non print media to get sound bites of what is happening globally. Newspapers that put time, effort, reflection and sweat and blood into the process of newsgathering and reporting still aim to provide an in-depth look at events. The question becomes who has or wants to take the time to ponder the world at the level that newspapers challenge the reader to ascribe to? The term ‘news' itself has taken on new meaning. There is ‘hard' news, celebrity news, breaking news, and other categories that have altered journalism from its beginnings.

However, even as the world continues to change, there is an ongoing need for the printed word, even if it is delivered electronically instead of on paper. That should be some comfort to journalists, for indeed, there is hope that there will always be the need for a free and honest press.

  • Completely Online
  • Self-Paced
  • Printable Lessons
  • Full HD Video
  • 6 Months to Complete
  • 24/7 Availability
  • Start Anytime
  • PC & Mac Compatible
  • Android & iOS Friendly
  • Accredited CEUs
Universal Class is an IACET Accredited Provider

Course Lessons

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Lesson 1: A Brief History of Journalism

Journalism is the gathering, organizing, and distribution of news -- to include feature stories and commentary -- through the wide variety of print and non-print media outlets. 35 Total Points
  • Lesson 1 Video
  • Complete Assignment: An Introduction
  • Complete: Lesson 1 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 1

Lesson 2: Introduction to Journalism

Journalism is the act of writing about news-related subjects for all mediums -- print and non-print. 30 Total Points
  • Lesson 2 Video
  • Review 3 Articles: 10 Qualities of a Good Journalist; Articles on the future of journalism; What is the future of journalism?
  • Complete: Why is Journalistic Writing Different - Lesson 2 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 2

Lesson 3: Journalism and Ethics

Ethics is the application of moral principles that guide decision-making in our personal and professional lives. Ethics refers to conduct or behavior within societal expectations. 30 Total Points
  • Lesson 3 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Center for Journalism Ethics; Improving Public Dialogue: Media and Citizen Responsibilities
  • Complete: My Ethical Stance in Journalism - Lesson 3 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 3

Lesson 4: Journalism and the Law

The legal rules, as they apply to journalists and media, are a complex and fluid series of decisions that define the boundaries of acceptable behavior. 30 Total Points
  • Lesson 4 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: 7 laws journalists now need to know - from database rights to hate speech; Press Organizations and Societies
  • Complete: Journalism and the Law - Lesson 4 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 4

Lesson 5: What Is News? What Is Not?

If you are going to be a journalist, you are going to have to be able to determine what qualifies as newsworthy -- and what doesn't. 60 Total Points
  • Lesson 5 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Journalism 101: What Makes a Story Newsworthy?; THE 11 THINGS THAT JOURNALISTS CONSIDER NEWSWORTHY
  • Complete: A Newsworth Story - Lesson 5 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 5

Lesson 6: Ferreting Out Newsworthy Stories in the Real World

In this lesson, we will consider this at greater length, offering a variety of resources for creating your own database of story ideas. 60 Total Points
  • Lesson 6 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Merging electronic and shoe-leather reporting; What Are the Best Ways of Finding Stories For Freelance Journalism?
  • Complete: A Personal Story - Lesson 6 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 6

Lesson 7: Research Skills and Fact Checking

The purpose of research is not simply to find facts and statistics, but to uncover reliable data. 24 Total Points
  • Lesson 7 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Getting it Right: Fact-Checking in the Digital Age; Research tip sheets: Lessons on online search techniques, reading studies, understanding data and methods
  • Complete: Lesson 7 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 7

Lesson 8: Basic Skills of Reporting - Listening and Observing

For those who wish to enter the profession, the art of active observation and keen listening are also essential. Let us consider each of these separately. 64 Total Points
  • Lesson 8 Video
  • Complete: Lesson 8 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 8
  • Complete Exam: MidTerm

Lesson 9: Basic Skills of Reporting - Interviewing and Note Taking

Advise the person what the purpose of the interview is so there are no surprises. That gives the interviewee time to prepare, and you, as well. 30 Total Points
  • Lesson 9 Video
  • Complete: Preparing for Your First Interview - Lesson 9 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 9

Lesson 10: Grammar and Style Rules of News Writing

Grammar is decided according to hard and fast rules, but style is more personal and puts your mark on the piece of work. 10 Total Points
  • Lesson 10 Video
  • Review 4 Articles: English Grammar Exercises; English Grammar Reference and Exercises; Exercises at Grammar Bytes!; Grammar Exercises - Mixed Tenses Exercises
  • Complete: Exam 10

Lesson 11: Structuring and Crafting the News Story - Part I

Writing is a skill that you will take years to hone, but like all those before you, you are beginning at -- the beginning! 30 Total Points
  • Lesson 11 Video
  • Review Article: How to Write a News Story Lead
  • Complete: Lesson 11 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 11

Lesson 12: Structuring and Crafting the News Story - Part II

The formats we will examine are the inverted pyramid, the narrative, the hourglass and the chronological order pattern. 45 Total Points
  • Lesson 12 Video
  • Review Article: How to Structure News Stories
  • Complete: Crafting a News Story - Lesson 12 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 12

Lesson 13: Expository Writing

Expository writing is a type of writing that aims to inform, explain, and/or describe. 60 Total Points
  • Lesson 13 Video
  • Review 2 Articles: Examples and Strategies in Expository Writing; Tips on Writing an Expository Essay
  • Complete: Expository Writing - Lesson 13 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 13

Lesson 14: Writing for Broadcast News and Online Resources

Writing for broadcast news and online resources is somewhat different, and the journalist who is able to perform well in all environments is likely to get the job, and keep it, before those who have limited knowledge. 60 Total Points
  • Lesson 14 Video
  • Review Article: How to Write Broadcast News Copy
  • Complete: Broadcast News Writing - Lesson 14 Assignment
  • Complete: Exam 14

Lesson 15: Journalism of Import

In this last lesson, we will cover a variety of topics, all of import to the journalist. 45 Total Points
  • Lesson 15 Video
  • Take Poll: Your Opinion Matters: Course Rating
  • Complete: Exam 15
  • Complete: The Final Exam
Total Course Points

Additional Course Information

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Course Title: Journalism 101
Course Number: 9770565
Languages: English - United States, Canada and other English speaking countries
Course Type: Professional Development (Self-Paced, Online Class)
CEU Value: 1.4 IACET CEUs (Continuing Education Units)
CE Accreditation: Universal Class, Inc. has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).
Grading Policy: Earn a final grade of 70% or higher to receive an online/downloadable CEU Certification documenting CEUs earned.
Assessment Method: Lesson assignments and review exams
Instructor: Dana Kristan
Syllabus: View Syllabus
Duration: Continuous: Enroll anytime!
Course Fee: $55.00 (no CEU Certification) || with Online CEU Certification: $80.00

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Student Testimonials

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  • "I appreciated the different types of writing." -- Anna J.

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  • Nonfiction Writing 101
    Nonfiction Writing 101
    The famous Ayn Rand once wrote, Like every human activity, [writing] requires practice and knowledge. But there is nothing mystical about it. Any person who can speak English grammatically can learn to write nonfiction. This is as true today as when...
    1.2 CEUs 12h
  • Kaizen 101 - An Introduction
    Kaizen 101 - An Introduction
    In Japan, continuous improvement has been a key part of personal development and business culture for decades, but it's a relatively new concept in western culture. The Japanese term for continuous improvement is Kaizen which simply means change for...
    0.5 CEUs 5h
  • Creative Writing 101
    Creative Writing 101
    'Creative Writing 101' is an attempt to capture what cannot be held in hand or thought--the elusive riddle of human creativity as we find it in our writing. Here we look at various forms and genres (books, dramas and plays, poetry, essays, film-writ...
    1.9 CEUs 19h
  • Advertising Copywriter
    Advertising Copywriter
    By definition, copywriting is the writing of advertisements or publicity materials. Copywriters write such advertisements and materials with the purpose of generating leads, sales, or creating brand awareness. This course will give you the knowled...
    1.0 CEUs 10h
  • ABCs of English Grammar
    ABCs of English Grammar
    This self-paced online course will provide you with a review of the grammar and writing skills necessary when taking any high school or college test, or with your everyday work-related writing and correspondence. Divided up into 15 easy-to-understan...
    1.5 CEUs 15h
  • How to Write a Grant Proposal
    How to Write a Grant Proposal
    Did you realize that you are most probably an experienced grant writer already? NO , you say, I've never written a grant in my life before -- but you have. Most people out there have asked somebody, at some time, for something in writing (one way ...
    1.5 CEUs 15h
  • Writing Improvement 101
    Writing Improvement 101
    We know that effective writing will help students in their coursework but it's equally important to write well in the workplace. If a job interviewer is considering two qualified candidates, the candidate who can write well will have the edge. If yo...
    1.3 CEUs 13h
  • General Receptionist
    General Receptionist
    As a receptionist you are an important member of the company you work for. When clients enter your business for the first time, the person to greet them when they enter the office is the receptionist. Receptionists create the first impression that a...
    0.6 CEUs 6h
  • Punctuation and Grammar 101
    Punctuation and Grammar 101
    Do you need a refresher course in basic punctuation and grammar? Is your business writing, school writing or personal writing a disaster and you're tired of stressing over mistakes? Improper grammar and punctuation is a sign for some people, right o...
    1.1 CEUs 11h
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